09 October 2023

The Monday Briefing: Get Together

The Monday Briefing: Get Together

My three days in College this week bookmarked two tremendous continuing professional development conferences: the Bellevue Heads Forum in central London and the ISA London North regional meeting in Waltham Abbey.

The Heads Forum featured a vital focus on race within education, guided by a true expert in the field, Vini Lander, Professor for Race and Education Director at the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett University.

The morning featured some searching questions on our collective approaches to race within the classroom, with our schools as a whole, and, indeed, in a wider sense. Prior to the meeting, I had looked through the constitution of the populace of the College. In terms of gender, our student population (60 boys and 56 girls) was broadly mirrored with our male-female staff (13 men and 12 women make up our staff team).

I was concerned to hear of the low levels of representation of non-white members of staff up and down the country. Obviously, London is a multi-racial, multicultural city, and being situated within the western part of it, means our wider representation of Black or Asian teachers in our staff team is understandable. But it is also pleasing to me to see a cohesive and supportive group of teachers in the College which features a third who are not white. Ealing Independent College prides itself on being an empowering inclusive community, and I’m keen to support staff to reflect and grow this year with our new appraisal system. 

The one area in which I’d like to see more representation is in our Senior Management Team. Of the four key members of this group, all are white.

It’s a difficult area to force in order to enable change, and particularly lasting change, but we must find ways, within the entire sector to find and nurture talent in order to let those individuals who are capable, who want the responsibility and would thrive as leaders to be given the chance to truly fulfil their potential. Too often, too many individuals who would be very much at home in school leadership are left frustrated. Held down by a glass ceiling which can’t be broken through. Thought must be given to how such issues can be overcome.

How else will students of non-white ethnicities be inspired to become the leaders of tomorrow if they can not see those striving to lead today.

This inspiring day was followed quickly by another where the Headteachers and Principals of the ISA London North region came together.

The thread which brought both together was the brave new world of the subject of inspection of independent schools. With a fledgling new framework in place, and many schools due an inspection, ourselves included, it can be a rather tense time for Heads.

Having all necessary documents in place is key, and we’ve been working steadily to ensure that the foundations of a good inspection is there. We’ve also been working tirelessly on pushing forward the new College priorities, and getting the academic trackers populated with our first Months Marks attainment and effort grades. It feels like the College is gaining momentum. Of course, there is more to a school than policies, documentation and data. The students are the lifeblood of the College, and I’m absolutely committed to following the advice of a fellow leader at the Bellevue Heads Forum, Ed Bond of Holmewood House School in Colchester, that we should ‘let the students shine.’

To close the ISA London North regional meeting, I had the privilege of listening to Andrew Hampton, an extensively experienced former Headteacher, who now leads Girls On Board, an approach which helps girls, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of girl friendships. His fascinating speech provided an extensive explanation of the nuances of both female and male cultures within schools, and how to nurture those to ensure an environment conducive to progress, safety and support for all students.

I was keen to learn more, agreeing with, and seeing patterns in almost every facet of Mr Hampton’s presentation which resonated closely with my experience. In fact, they mirrored a number of the points made in a couple of my previous blogs on leading a positive culture of male behaviour, and celebrating female empowerment.

What can be somewhat of a ‘graveyard shift’ became an enthralling end to an excellent day - and that is no mean feat. I’ve been able to approach this new week inspired and refreshed.

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